Reforming unjust fines and fees requires local solutions
Fines and fees have devastated the lives of millions of Americans, trapping many in a cycle of poverty and punishment; these impacts fall most heavily on low-income communities and communities of color. Recognizing the harms of fines and fees in their communities, many city and county leaders have chosen to reform their fines and fees policies, ensuring they do not place a disproportionate burden on vulnerable communities.
About Cities and Counties for Fine and Fee Justice
Led by the San Francisco Financial Justice Project and the Fines and Fees Justice Center, Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice (CCFFJ) is a national leadership network of local places committed to meaningful fines and fees reform that will make a positive difference in the lives of low-income residents.
Each jurisdiction selected to be part of the CCFFJ leadership network receives customized technical and strategic assistance, including access to policy, research, communications and data expertise on fines and fees policies. Results for America will also be supporting the leadership team in the work with cities and counties.
2020-21: Inaugural CCFFJ Leadership Network Members
The Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice Network launched in May 2020 with the following participating jurisdictions:
- Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
- Chicago, Illinois
- Dallas, Texas
- Durham, North Carolina
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Providence, Rhode Island
- Sacramento City and County, California
- Seattle/King County, Washington
- Shelby County, Tennessee
- St. Paul, Minnesota
These CCFFJ members enacted reforms to eliminate in-custody fees and municipal fees, to forgive outstanding debt, to end debt-based driver’s license suspensions, to implement restitution funds, to eliminate the costs of phone calls and dramatically lower the cost of commissary items in jails, and to provide fine and fee waivers and reductions for people with low incomes. Learn more about the reforms enacted and underway from the first cohort of cities and counties here.
2022-23: New CCFFJ Leadership Network Members Announced
In August 2022, the Fines and Fees Justice Center together with the San Francisco Financial Justice Project and Results for America announced the addition of six participating cities and counties:
- Chatham County, Georgia
- Jefferson County, Alabama
- Miami-Dade County, Florida
- Washtenaw County, Michigan
- City of Wilmington, Delaware
- Wyandotte County/City of Kansas City, Kansas
The new CCFFJ jurisdictions will pursue reforms that include eliminating criminal justice fees — the surcharges, penalties, and interest that drive up debt and make even a traffic ticket unaffordable for people living paycheck-to-paycheck; the high costs of incarceration — such as the exorbitant fees for phone calls, medical care, and commissary purchases, paid by people who are incarcerated and their families; and, right-sizing fines that exceed people’s ability to pay, such as ticketing, towing, and booting.
Local Policy Guides To Help Cities and Counties Lead on Fines and Fees Reform
When harmful fines and fees policies are imposed at the local level, they require local solutions. To help localities pursue effective reforms, FFJC has released three local reform guides, each with a step-by-step process to assess specific fines and fees issues and implement corresponding reforms. See our policy guides on fee elimination, ending debt-based license suspensions, and eliminating the predatory costs of jail goods & services.
Resources for advocates, organizers and policymakers
- Roadmap to Bold and Equitable Fine and Fee Reform
- How to Conduct a Fine and Fee Assessment Part 1 — Engaging Community
- How to Conduct a Fine and Fees Assessment Part 2 — Gathering Information from Government Stakeholders
- How to Create Effective Communications Strategy and Messaging
- How to Analyze the Fiscal and Budgetary Impact of Fines and Fees and Related Reforms
- How to Center Racial Equity in Fine and Fee Reform
- Evictions and Housing Policy during COVID 19
About Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice partners
The San Francisco Financial Justice Project is the nation’s first effort embedded in government to assess and reform fines, fees, and financial penalties that disproportionately impact low-income residents and communities of color. Working with community organizations, advocates, city and county departments, and courts, the Financial Justice Project has spearheaded the elimination or reduction of dozens of fines and fees and lifted millions of dollars in debt off of tens of thousands of local residents. The Project’s accomplishments are listed here, and here is a guide to available fine and fee discounts for San Francisco low-income residents.
The Fines and Fees Justice Center seeks to catalyze a movement to eliminate the fines and fees that distort justice. FFJC’s goal is to eliminate fees in the justice system and to ensure that fines are equitably imposed and enforced. FFJC provides resources, makes critical connections, offers strategic advice, and serves as a hub for the fines and fees reform movement, working with impacted communities, researchers, advocates, legislators, justice system stakeholders, and media all across America.
Results for America helps decision-makers at all levels of government harness the power of evidence and data to solve our world’s greatest challenges. Their mission is to make investing in what works the “new normal,” so that when policymakers make decisions, they start by seeking the best evidence and data available, then use what they find to get better results.
To learn more about Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice contact FFJC’s Policy and Program, Joni Hirsch Kaden at firstname.lastname@example.org
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